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Design and drawing practice

Design and drawing practice

Design and drawing practice

Hello all, I'm self employed structural engineer working mostly on small to medium sized projects. Most of them are residential, office, commercial or public buildings. I've worked with all major materials (concrete, steel, masonry, timber) but let's say my specialty is timber design. It is why most of my customers wants to work with me - working with other materials is mainly out of necessity as no project is 100% timber.

I'm from Europe so practice is different from US. Even between neighbouring countries can be totally different - probably same is in the US.

What I want to discuss is the workflow of an engineer - current and future - from beginning to end.
How do you handle changes?
Which tools do you use?

Over last two years I've became a bit frustrated with the way we design projects. Architects and engineers are working separately, sending each other files by email, plans are constantly changing as nobody really knows what others are working on. Then there are last minute changes. In the end there are always things that need to be changed prior to construction.

With all the BIM hype going on, I stayed a bit behind as the whole industry here is not really catching up. Most architects still use 2D CAD. It makes harder for me to adopt it. Some architects I work with use Archicad.

General BIM software like Revit and Allplan are great I hear, but who will manage the model? I certainly could not. I could do the structural model but that's it. I think the architects/BIM managers need to develop BIM models, others just contribute to it and use it for their own models.

Practice here is that structural engineer provides concrete reinforcement detailed plans - contractor is basically ready to work right away, they just need to do their own formwork specifications. Some engineers do also structural steel shop drawings, most of them just plans and details - contractor does shop drawings. In timber structures there are mostly just basic plans and a few details as knowledge among engineers is poor. Contractors on the other hand work with speciality software like HSB, Sema, Cadwork, Dietrich's and CNC machines. So in the end they always have an edge over engineers who really don't care much about timber. I'm one of the few who demands to check the shop 3D model before manufacturing. I also provide a lot of details for connections.

My question here is do I start working with speciality software for timber structures and try to "sell" it to the contractors? Architects probably will not want to pay extra for CNC ready model. Do you have some experience with this, maybe in steel construction?

Probably my post is a bit confusing but I hope it can develop in a good discussion.

RE: Design and drawing practice

I use Dlubal RFEM as my main software. Awesome software. Many small programs for certain type of calculation. Some self made in Excel.
For timber design by components I use Calculatis by StoraEnso. Really helpful.
For steel connections I use IDEA Statica. Awesome software.
For timber connections.. Mostly by hand and manufacturer's software. Do you know any?

For reports I use MS Word. I have a template that I change for every project. I also include printouts from other software and PDF merge them.
I draw in BricsCAD - good software for the money. I can do a bit of 3D also but mainly it's just 2D plans, sections and details.
For rebar I have a software that works with BricsCAD. It works in 2D but is really helpful. Main downside is that you need to draw all accurate plans and sections on your own and only then you can start laying rebar.
I draw steel parts in 2D. Sometimes also shop drawings.

In the end everything come together and my documentation is pretty detailed. But it takes SO MUCH time...

RE: Design and drawing practice

I just started using RFEM and i agree it is a great piece of software!

As for other ideas, in terms of your reports I would suggest you look at Tekla Tedds or MathCad. Both programs would let you create calculation documents that you could use as templates (Tedds has many already created for multiple codes, US, CAN, Euro). For your wood design I bet this would speed things up quite a bit.

As for drawing I have used both AutoCAD and Tekla. Tekla is probably a bit expensive for a smaller outfit but its pretty powerful and can do directly from 3D to 2D drawings with minimal effort if you get your setting right.

RE: Design and drawing practice

I've started to send dxf files out to Contractors for my baseplates (frequently with square HSS tubes fitted into square holes in the plate per our local utility) and other fancy connector plates that I come up with. Some contractors don't know what the files are for but after they see what they can do, they like. I set the files up for water jet cutting or plasma cutting and it works well with local fabricators.

RE: Design and drawing practice

Thank you for your input. I would love to hear from others too. Maybe someone working in timber design?

RE: Design and drawing practice

I used RFEM in the past, great software able to deal with almost everything. However, the modelling phase is rather time-demanding in relation to the small to medium timber buildings I usually design.
Recently I started using TimberTech Buildings, a software that is specifically targeted to timber shear walls structures (CLT and platform frame). Unfortunately, it is not a software that can model a large variety of typologies and materials but, regarding timber structures (including steel members), it is what I was looking for. The modelling is fast and consistent with the needs of simple structure design, it performs the relevant checks on timber members and on connections according to EC (static, seismic and vibration analysis) and automatically provides a Word calculation report, .dxf drawings, the bill of quantities and an .ifc file usually appreciated by contractors who manipulate them with their CAD-CAM software.
Hopefully, it can help to speed up your workflow if you work with this kind of buildings. Then, of course, some hand made Excel spreadsheet is always useful.

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